Know Your Rights
Since its establishment in 1994, CAIR has been safeguarding the civil liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The resources below were crafted by CAIR staff as handy guidelines to knowing your rights in various situations.
As an Employee
Federal law makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee on the basis of religion, race, or national origin.
Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act guarantees your right to:
- Reasonable religious accommodation: The failure of an employer to reasonably accommodate your religious practices may constitute employment discrimination. ‘Religious practices’ include wearing a beard, prayer breaks, hijab and going to Jummah (Friday) prayers.
- Fairness in hiring, firing, and promotions: Your employer is prohibited from considering religion when making decisions affecting your employment status.
- A non-hostile work environment: Your employer must ensure that you are not subjected to anti-Muslim insults, harassment or unwelcome and excessive proselytizing.
- Complain about discrimination without fear of retaliation: Federal law guarantees your right to report an act of alleged employment discrimination. It is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for your complaint.
When Faced with Discrimination on the Job
- Remain calm and polite.
- Inform the offending party that you believe his/her actions are discriminatory.
- Report the discriminatory action in writing to company management.
- Begin documenting the discrimination by saving memos, keeping a detailed journal, noting the presence of witnesses and making written complaints. Make sure to keep copies of all materials. It is important to keep a “paper trail” of evidence.
- Call the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) at 800-669-4000 or local county or state civil rights agencies to educate yourself about legal options.
- Contact a local attorney who is licensed to practice in your state to discuss your case.
- DO NOT sign any documents or resign without an attorney’s advice.
- Ask to be transferred to another department or job site.
- Ask for mediation.
- Contact CAIR to file a report.
- Consider looking for a new job.
As a Student
- You have the right to inform others about your religion: You have the right to pass out literature or speak to others about Islam, as long as it is not done in a disruptive manner.
- You have the right to wear religious clothing: You also have the right to wear clothing with a religious message, as long as other clothes with similar messages are allowed.
- You have the right to organize student-led prayer on campus, as long as the service is not disruptive to the function of the school.
- You may have the right to attend Friday prayer: The Supreme Court has upheld the right of states to allow students “release time” to attend religious classes or services.
- You have the right to be excused from school for religious holidays: You should be sure to inform the school that you will be absent in advance.
- You have the right to be excused from class discussions or activities that you find religiously objectionable: If you have any questions, please contact CAIR.
- You have the right to form an extracurricular Muslim student group.
Your Legal Rights As A Traveler
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) conducts safety-related searches for weapons and explosives.
Your Rights In the Airport:
Primary Screening – Metal detector including an x-ray of your luggage and shoes, AND body scanner or pat down (it’s your choice)
If you are stopped by law enforcement when in an airport, either arriving or departing, law enforcement agents CAN also detain you briefly if they feel that you are a security risk or that you are doing some specific illegal activity.
TSA screeners CANNOT
- Target you for additional screening or questions based on racial or ethnic profiling.
- Ask you general questions without some probable cause, i.e. They cannot question you about your personal life where you spend time, work, worship, etc.
- Handcuff you or strip search you.
Customs and Border Protection When Traveling into the US by Car or Plane: Customs and Border Protection (CBP) secures our country by preventing the illegal entry of people and goods while facilitating legitimate travel and trade.
CBP CAN question you regarding:
- Your citizenship
- The nature or purpose of your trip
- Anything you are bringing back to the United States that you did not have with you when you left
- They can examine your baggage and everything in it
- They can confiscate your electronic items
- Target you for additional screening or questions based on racial or ethnic profiling
- Ask you general questions without some probable cause, i.e.. They can not ask you about your personal life—where you spend time, work, worship, your friends, etc.
- Handcuff you or strip search you*
- Confiscate your electronic property without an inventory
*CBP cannot strip search as a matter of routine, but they may perform a strip search of you if there is “some level of individualized suspicion.” Of course such a search must be conducted by a person of the same gender as yourself.
As an airline passenger, you are entitled to courteous, respectful and non-stigmatizing treatment by airline and security personnel.
It is illegal for law enforcement officials to perform any stops, searches, detentions, or removals based solely on your race, religion, national origin, gender, or ethnicity.
If you believe you have been treated in a discriminatory manner, you should do the following:
- Ask for the names and ID numbers of all persons involved in the incident. Be sure to write this information down
- Ask to speak to a supervisor.
- Politely ask if you have been singled out because of your name, looks, dress, race, ethnicity, religion or national origin.
- Politely ask witnesses to give you their names and contact information.
- Write down a statement of facts immediately after the incident. Be sure to include the flight number, the flight date and the name of the airline.
- Contact CAIR to file a report. If you are leaving the country, leave a detailed message, with the information above at 408-986-9874 or go to ca.cair.com/sfba to file a report.
- Even if you do not want to file a complaint, it is important to contact CAIR with information about what happened to you so we can compile national statistics.
It is important to remember the following:
- A customs agent has the right to stop, detain, and search every person and item coming into the US.
- Agents have the authority to conduct a further search of you or your bags.
- A pilot has the right to refuse to fly a passenger if he or she believes the passenger is a threat to the safety of the flight. The pilot’s decision must be reasonable and based on observation of you, not stereotypes.
If Law Enforcement Contacts You
American Muslims strongly support law enforcement and the protection of our national security. As Americans, we also value the civil rights of all Americans. All Americans have the constitutional right of due process and to be politically active.
If you know of any criminal activity taking place in your community, it is both your religious and civic duty to immediately report such activity to local and federal law enforcement agencies.
If you are visited by federal law enforcement agencies, remember:
- You should have a lawyer present when speaking with federal law enforcement agencies: Under the law, you have the legal right to have a lawyer present when speaking with federal law enforcement agencies. This is true even if you are not a citizen. This is your legal right. Refusing to answer questions cannot be held against you and does not imply that you have something to hide.
- You do not have to permit them to enter your home or office if they do not have a warrant: Under U.S. law, law enforcement agents must possess a search warrant in order to enter your house. If they say they have a warrant, kindly demand to see it before allowing them to enter. The warrant will specify exactly what can be searched and if they have a warrant, be courteous and polite and remember that you are under no obligation to answer questions without a lawyer present.
- You should never lie or provide false information to any law enforcement agencies: Lying to law enforcement agents is a federal crime and should never be done under any circumstance.